Tag Archives: job hunting

Don’t lose a job over one email 

Dan had the perfect first interview. I debriefed the hiring manager. Dan was a sharp leader with experience and corporate savvy. The pay would be $175,000 per year. Dan drafted a thank you email and sent it off to the hiring manager. 

The next afternoon I called the hiring manager to set up an interview. It was not going to happen. Instead of the short “thank you” I recommended, Dan sent a two page email. Not a problem, usually. Then the email was forwarded to me. Dan had sent a lethal email. 

There were two problems:

1. Dan wrote about the wrong things

2. The grammar, spelling and layout were terrible

The wrong things

A thank you email is not a good place to bring up problems with your last boss, the other reasons you quit that job, or that you are tired of working long hours. You don’t set salary, vacation and relocation demands in a thank you email either. You just say, “Thank you.”

Grammar, spelling and layout

Dan was in the running for a job as leader, manager, communicator and chief computer dude for a multi-national company. He would be giving direction and building coalitions. His technical expertise was essential. But, Dan didn’t use the computer to check his spelling or grammar. It was bad. Just plain bad. He also wandered from subject to subject in the middle of paragraphs and sentences.  The email did not hang together. 

Make it very short, or get it proofread

A short thank you is best.

If you are writing more than 3 sentences, wait an hour and re-read it before you send it. The idea of informal and off-the-cuff email is sweet, but wrong. You will be judged by what you send. If your email is over 3 lines, at least proofread it yourself. Better yet, have someone else who is a good writer look it over and make suggestions. And please learn how to use a spelling and grammar checker.

Make sure your thank you gets you closer to the job, not shut out.

Something to do today

Go to your email outbox. How many of those should have been more formal?

Learn the basics before you experiment

Most of my kids at one point or another play some sort of instrument. When kids first play an instrument they mash keys on a piano or play with the strings on a violin. To them, it sounds really good. To other people, not so much. Eventually they get to learn in classes and through books how to play. Of course most people will want to learn how to play the hit songs or their favorite songs immediately. Of course that’s not how that works. 

You have to learn the basics before you can become good. Lots of my kids can tell you that learning their notes and the basics can be annoying or tedious. But once they learn them (and learn to practice them right) they realize how important they can be, even if it is more fun at the start to mash keys on a piano. Fun doesn’t mean it sounds good.

When going into interviews, learn to give the correct response, even if it’s boring. Then experiment with different answers or variations to improve it. 

Learning comes in stages. First you have to learn to give a correct response. It may be dull to learn and practice, but you will be right. After you know a correct response and why it is correct, you can experiment with different answers. Eventually you will come up with much better responses than you were originally taught. But every once in a while you have to go back to what you started with. You have to check what you are now saying against what really needs to be said.

The next few days are going to be going over interview questions you need to ask. I’ll start out with the basics. They are the questions that work in every interview. Then I’ll go to questions that set you apart in an interview.

I suggest you repeat your practice questions aloud 3 times before you go in for an interview. When you are in the interview, don’t worry about getting them word perfect. You’ll have the ideas cemented in your brain. You’ll be prepared to set yourself apart from the competition by the questions you ask.

Something to do today

Make a list of at least 3 questions or topics you should ask about in every interview. 

Now think about the exact wording. Can you make the questions show your keen interest in doing a great job and helping your team? 

“Lone Eagles” join flocks, too

I used to believe that eagles don’t flock. I’d seen flocks of geese, starlings, and turkeys. Never a flock of eagles. For some reason, I believed the best people didn’t flock either. After all, my employer used it as a recruiting slogan. You have to find the great people one-by-one.

8 years into EDS, I worked with a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist. On her wall she had the Sierra club calendar. There was a picture of a dozen eagles all sitting in the bare branches of an Alaskan tree. I commented on the incongruity of all those eagles flocking together. She said, “My husband and I were in Alaska when we took that picture. It really isn’t that uncommon of a sight where there are a lot of eagles.” 

Close Photography of Bald Eagle

Looking for flocks of eagles became a hobby of mine, particularly since my employer’s recruiting slogan denied that eagles flock. I found that there really are a lot of lone eagles. They are islands of expertise and productivity in an ocean of mediocrity. My current profession is to find those eagles and move them into flocks. 

There are a few flocks of eagles in every industry and city. Places where eagles are naturally attracted. Once you know where those places are, it is pretty easy to get an eagle to move to that flock. Some choose to remain the lone eagle among sparrows. I can’t blame them. Besides, they can move to a flock anytime they want.

Just being around eagles makes you grow. You can’t help but want to be like them even if you are just a sparrow. Somehow, you absorb their attitude and habits. Even if you don’t really want to become an eagle, being around them is exhilarating.

So keep your eyes open for flocks of eagles and individual eagles. Find a way to work closely with them. You’ll learn and grow. You’ll find your career is enhanced and your outlook improves whether or not you ever want to become an eagle yourself. 

Something to do today

Ask around. Where is the flock of eagles you would like to work with? Where are the lone eagles?

Look for a job while still employed

It is absolutely legal and a good idea to look for a new job while you are still employed.  It can also be theft, treason and absolutely illegal.  It depends on how you do it.

There was a running joke at one place I worked.  

“Hey, Jim, this is the fourth day this month you’ve worn a suit.  Are you going to see the dentist again?”

It was obvious when people were interviewing for a new job. None of us minded as long as the person didn’t slack off. 

The principles are simple:

  • Honestly keep earning your income at your current job
  • Don’t give away any company secrets

Here are some things I have noticed about job hunters that I respect:

  • They interview at lunch or during a normal job downtime.
  • They use their own email address or know the company policy on using their work email for personal use.
  • They are careful about who can hear them when talking on the phone.
  • You can’t pry confidential company information out of them.
  • Getting their work done despite looking for a new job is important to them.
  • Sabotaging workplace morale is out of character.

It is pretty simple.  Treat your job, boss and coworkers how you would like to be treated.  Be worth every penny you have been paid and will be paid.  Switching jobs is not a crime unless you make it one.  

Something to do today

Decide what ethical job hunting really is.  Write down some rules.  Live by them.

Are you bragging, or stating your worth?

Want to get hired? Prove you are the best option.

Employers look at resumes for three things to do the initial screening for greatness: 

  • Basic job skills
  • What you have accomplished
  • What you caused others to accomplish

Basic job skills have to be easy to find on your resume. Prove you can type, program in VB.Net, sell, do accounting or design widgets. Make it so those skills will not be missed by a receptionist who has hundreds of resumes to dig through.

What you have accomplished is often harder to come up with. 

What you caused others to accomplish is even harder to remember and very hard to prove.

Figure out the effect you had on others. Keep track of people you have trained, processes you speeded up and money you saved. It will set you apart. Most people won’t track those things because they are taught to be “humble”. There is a difference between bragging and stating how good you are at something. There is nothing wrong with reporting how well you do your job. Correctly convincing an employer to hire you because you will make him more money is a great idea. Don’t shy away from proving what you are worth. 

The people, teams and companies you have helped are a great indicator of just how great you are. Accept it and take advantage of it.

Something to do today

If you have not started a job journal, today is a good day to do it. Start tracking all the people you help. Keep a tally sheet with the number of people who drop by and ask for help each day. Figure out how you make the workplace better. Track it and report it.

Will your resume last more than 5.7 seconds

I heard the Wall Street Journal did a study and found that the average resume is reviewed in 5.7 seconds. Years ago it was 10 to 12 seconds. People must be reading faster.

The reason for the increase in speed is probably that so many unqualified people send in resumes these days. At one point at AGI we stopped all advertising and stopped putting our jobs out on the major internet job boards because of the unqualified responses. It took too long to slog through them.

That glut of useless resumes makes it easy for your resume to stand out. Here’s how you make it happen. 

Take the job lead you are submitting your resume for. Make sure that anyone glancing at your resume can see that you have the major skills. For programmers that means putting the languages and skills you used where they can’t be missed in 5.7 seconds. For accountants, your expertise that applies to this particular job must jump out. Salespeople need to show how good they are at a glance. Whatever makes you the best bet for the job you are applying for must stand out.

This means you may need 2 or 3 slightly different resumes. Maybe you just need to rearrange the bullet points. Try bolding the words that describe skills asked for in the ad. Put white space around the critical skill sets. Change which keywords are emphasized. Do something to get your resume past that initial 5.7 to 15 second review.

In a sea of useless resumes, you can make yours stand out and get read if you are willing to put in the effort.

Something to do today

For the next 5 times you send off your resume, give it an examination first. Take the job order and see if YOU can find the most important skills and qualifications on your resume in 5.7 seconds. If you can’t, no one can.

Look for the right place to cast your resume

When I was a child I tried fishing in a puddle in front of our house. When the sun dried it up I could see there were no fish there.

At college I saw a video of a man fishing in one of the larger fountains there. When people asked how the fishing was, he pulled up a nice string of large trout. That made for interesting conversations, but no one believed him. They could see there were no trout in that clear fountain water.

On a Scout outing John and I were lying on a creek bank and looking down into the water. We could see 3 nice trout in the tree roots. When a fisherman came by we asked how he was doing. Only one fish so far. John told the man to cast his lure at the tree root. In a dozen casts the man caught all three fish.

To catch fish you have to cast your lure where the fish are.

This applies to new jobs and promotions 

A recruiter can be that kid lying on the bank of the creek looking into the water. He says “Cast your resume over here and you’ll get a job.” He knows where the jobs are.

Ask your friends and acquaintances who are hiring. They may have a good idea where to go. Look at the financial news stories and find out what industries are “going public” in the stock market. Ask what companies are growing the fastest and look for a job in that industry.

Your mentor at work will tell you, “Volunteer for that project. It has great visibility. Avoid Jill Montoya, she’s poison.” The mentor knows where the rewards and pitfalls are hidden.

Always be looking to the future. Where are the jobs being created? What do you need to learn to be in a high demand field?

Fish where the fish are. You’ll have better luck.

Something to do today

Ask the people you respect most in your profession where the jobs are and where the industry is going. 

How to save your resume from getting deleted

Some people wisely ask, how can I hide my flaws? Others seem to ask, how can I hide my greatest strengths? 

Every resume I read is a mystery novel. For instance, an accountant dismissed in March is a lot different than one dismissed in May. March is the busy part of tax season, so, why would a competent accountant be sacked? May is a time that accountants cut back on staff. Is the firing a red flag or a red herring?

Is an 8 or 10 line “objective” on a resume a red herring? Do any of those 200 words really mean anything? A 300 word paragraph describing the last job is incredible camouflage for good and bad. 

A bullet cuts through all the fluff, just like in a murder mystery. Find the bullet, find the gun, find the murderer. I always read the first 3 bullets under a job in a resume. 

If those first 3 bullets are three red flags, then I will absolutely skip the rest. 

If those first 3 bullets are three red herrings, I may skip the rest. By skipping the rest, I may miss the one important bullet that would convince me to keep your resume.

My problem is that I am human. I am easily distracted. I have hours of work to plow through before I leave. If I see too many red herrings in your resume, I’ll push the delete key. I don’t have the time to carefully consider each bullet to see if it’s a herring or a flag.

How many pounds of red herring are in your resume?

Something to do today

Hand your resume and the job ad you are applying for to a friend. Ask them if they match. If it takes more than 15 seconds to say, “Yes!”, then you lose.

The best workers can still lose their job

Some economists say that outsourcing jobs to China increases high paying jobs and wages in the US. Jobs don’t have to be outsourced to China. Here in Harrisburg, PA, a significant amount of high paying programming jobs were moved to California.

Even if it’s good for the economy in the long term, in the short term the reality is that workers get hurt when jobs are outsourced. 

Why California? It costs even more to get work done out there. How can that be economical? I can understand someone wanting cheaper labor and moving labor to China, but California makes little sense. 

In truth, a PA company was bought by a CA company. The PA company hadn’t been competing effectively, but still had a loyal customer base. Instead of letting the company run itself into the ground, the owners were able to sell to the CA company. 

The CA company got more customers, the customers got a better and more reliable service, and the PA owners were able to sell out before it got too dire. Everyone wins… except for the workers in PA.

For the economy, there is nothing better than capitalism leading to the demise of a company for the benefit of another. For a new jobless worker, there is little that is more terrifying.

Those workers did eventually find new jobs. It’s been years now. Were they all the best in their field? Of course not. However, the best of them still lost their job. 

It doesn’t take getting fired to lose your job. Jobs are outsourced all the time. 

When a company dies or the work is outsourced, people either re-train or retire. They use the new skills they learned to find new, better-paying work. 

Ship, Listing, Galapagos Islands, Sea

Are you getting new, valuable skills at your current job? In a dying company, there are people who will re-train themselves long before the company sinks, then use that to get a new job. It’s better to train and leave early than to wait until you’re up to your neck in water.

Something to do today

Write down a list of skills you’ve developed at your current job. What skills are your coworkers developing that are not on your list?

Are you sowing seeds of success in your job?

The first winter in Plymouth Colony killed a third of the Pilgrims. During that winter one of my ancestors was caught eating the seed corn. He knew the whole colony would fail if the seed corn disappeared, but he talked himself into eating it anyway. I’m glad he was caught. I’m glad he learned.

Every job is the seed of your next job, even if you are changing fields entirely. Your future boss will be looking back at your accomplishments, drive, leadership and enthusiasm for your current job.

When you decide to sit back and relax at your job, you eat your seed corn. No one wants to hire an “average” person. They want to hire a superstar, or at least a hard worker.

Figure out how to make a difference. How can YOU make the company more profitable? Is there some way you can prove you are above average? 

When I was doing janitorial work at 4 a.m. every morning, I excelled. I only missed 2 days in a school year and I called in advance for those. I did my entire job no matter how tired I was. That work got me promoted to the afternoon shift. It was a lot nicer. The early morning job was the seed of my next job, and that was the seed of the next.

Don’t relax. Be at least above average. It will be the seed corn for your next job.

Invest some of the money you earn to get training. Use it as seed corn.

Something to do today

Be honest. Are you sliding by? 

List what makes you above average. Put it on your resume.

List what makes you below average. Eliminate it.